Imagine if the movie Crank were a video game with the point of view gameplay of Doom. Insert the narrative of the film Universal Soldier, add a protagonist akin to Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman, and then give him the power of the Jedi force — this is what you can expect from the new action film Hardcore Henry. The film hides behind the guise of the first-person experience to make you forget that Hardcore Henry is made up of a series of different films you’ve seen before. But then again, who cares? It is sensory overload, equipped with enough violence, comedy, and endless bullets to last a lifetime.
Calling Hardcore Henry a “disasterpiece” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad film. The film is meant to be disastrous. It’s evident from the start, director Ilya Naishuller does not want you to take this film too seriously.
The film starts with Henry waking up in a lab with his wife, Estelle (Haley Bennett), who is a scientist, putting his mutilated body back together with robotic body parts. Right away, the bad guy, Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), breaks into her lab and kidnaps her.
The entire film is wrapped around this plot device, where Henry does whatever (and I do mean whatever) he can to rescue his wife. Henry can’t speak, so Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) acts as Henry’s guardian angel and guides him on his quest every step of the way. The film has a few decent twist and turns. As things progress forward, the audience realizes things are not always what they seem. However, if you aren’t looking close enough, you might miss those plot twists.
The action in Hardcore Henry kicks in before the narrative begins to fully unravel. As things move along, you discover more about what really happened to Henry, but whether or not you care is another matter. Hardcore Henry will get your adrenaline pumping with its stunts and action sequences, so when it tries to squeeze in a bit of narrative, you really just want to get back to the action.
One of the film’s highlights is the performance of actor Sharlto Copley. He wears many hats in this film and steals each scene he’s in. Copley knows when to ham it up and knows when to be serious. He has more than half of the dialogue in Hardcore Henry, and while it isn’t an Oscar-worthy screenplay, Copley does well with what he has given.
Speaking of action, its so over the top. Some scenes are so silly it was like watching a cartoon or playing a video game. Just when you think it couldn’t get messier, the film surprises you by going above and beyond. Even the Hardcore Henry beginning credit sequence is full of violence. It makes me wonder how extreme the director’s cut will be when released on DVD.
As far as the film’s direction and technical aspects, Hardcore Henry doesn’t offer anything special. The stunts and action scenes are really well done and the point-of-view angle is interesting, but the novelty wore off half way through for me. There were some action scenes I wanted to see fleshed out but couldn’t because the sequence is bombarded with shaky camera movements that made things hard to view clearly. Some scenes were so shaky that audience members at the screening I attended were dizzy. Not to say there isn’t a disclaimer present, but I don’t remember seeing one that warned people of the potential of motion sickness. You can’t really enjoy something if your head is spinning.
Overall, there is something to appreciate about Hardcore Henry. The film is not for everyone. You have to really like action and senseless violence to enjoy it. At a time when Hollywood is really taking itself seriously, Hardcore Henry is a decent popcorn movie. Just turn your brain off and go along for the ride.
[Image via STX Entertainment]